Voice Lessons

In this contest-winning personal essay, the author describes the challenge of undergoing treatment for thyroid cancer and coping with lasting scars, including an extra “smile” on her throat where an incision was made and a voice that functions only some of the time. She writes, “I smell the rainwater as it moves around the tires, the earthiness of smashed worms, and everything cold and soulful. The day says something to me, and I wish I could say something back.” Using compelling imagery, she conveys what it’s like to express herself through the calculated means of writing and playing the viola while unable to communicate spontaneously through speaking and laughter. Grim and hopeful at the same time, this essay captures the essence of what many cancer survivors sacrifice in exchange for life.

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